The great Christmas present hunt

Christmas, for many, means endless food and drink and time with the family. But, for PAs at the forefront of the great gift hunt, it can be another story. Cora Lydon suggests how to make it a breeze

 First up: know what the end result is. If your task is to reward hardworking staff, then stretching the finances as far as you can go is wise. Happy staff are those who feel valued by their company and, as a result, you’ll have staff who are engaged, motivated and productive.
“The most important thing to remember when purchasing gifts for those in your business is to choose a gift that employees can enjoy outside of the working environment,” says Thi Dinh, manager and gifting expert for a large Christmas fair. “This means company branded gifts are out – save those for conferences and client meetings.”
In instances like this research will pay off – with perseverance you should be able to locate the perfect gift for everyone and each person will feel valued. And if you’re sourcing items for customers then bulk buys really do work out best for value and effort. Find something that’ll be liked universally – something used daily is often a safe bet.
To make your gift seem more premium and thoughtful, why not add a handwritten note, thanking them for their business? It’s a lot of time and effort to produce on a large scale so draft in some help from colleagues and start early. Including a note – no matter how brief – can really elevate the relationship, underlining the importance of the personal bond your businesses share, rather than the actual transaction of products or services.

“Corporate gifting can be highly political, particularly if you have many varying hierarchies within the team”

Research wins
To win brownie points, heed the advice of Thi who says exclusivity is in and mass market is out: “A great corporate gift is usually one that has been specially sought out, bespoke, beautifully packaged or not widely available online. The thread tying these elements together is the effort put into finding or purchasing the gift.” Gifters tend to focus on the value and overlook the importance of spending time identifying the right gift, however, research shows the recipient will always appreciate the effort that’s gone into selecting a present over its cost.

Adding it up
Still clueless? Perhaps it’s time to get mathematical. According to Professor of Psychology Karen Pine, there’s an equation for picking the perfect present and it goes like this: (L x 2) + O + E2 – PD + EM =PP. L is for listening; tuning into helpful hints the recipient may reveal and the x 2 reflects the fact you need to work really hard here. You could be sneaky and ask for their gift suggestions for others, as it’s likely to reveal what they’d like for themselves too.
O is for observation: think about what excites the person, what makes them happy and how they spend their time.
E2 is all about the effort you make. A last minute dash to the supermarket will never procure the same thoughtful gift as something you’ve spent a lot of time considering. And it’s not always about physical effort – going one extra step can also play dividends. Searching for a special plant whose name has meaning, or loading an iPod with a selection of favourite songs all earns you respect.
PD is for personal desire and refers to your own thoughts and opinions. It’s common to overestimate how much someone will like a present and base it on your own preferences. Take this out of the equation and base your purchase on the results of the L and O stages.
EM, or empathy, is the skill of being able to read other people’s emotions; imagining how they may feel about receiving this gift – adding that to the mix will result in PP: the perfect present!

Making it count
“Corporate gifting can be highly political, particularly if you have many varying hierarchies within the team. You want to ensure that every member feels equally valued, so stick to uniform gifts across the company. Purchasing in large quantities in this way could also potentially save you a little bit of money,” advises Thi.
But how can you ensure uniformity across the board while still making it personal? “Bespoke solutions are now widely available – you may want to engrave or personalise,” says Thi. “Alternatively, make use of the variations such as in colour or design for gifts that have been purchased for a large group of employees. If you’re placing an order with a small independent company, they might have more resources to create a bespoke solution. It’s certainly worth asking!”

The Perfect gift

 For the boss: This should be a breeze – after all you spend a significant part of your working life together. Think about what they enjoy out of work – cooking, sports, classic cars, film… and try to match your gift: a one-to-one cookery class, or leather driving gloves, for example. Here, it really is the thought that counts rather than the cost.
The boss’s partner: If the boss hasn’t given you any clues, you’re going to have to do some research. Consider what you know about their partner, or conversations the boss may have had with you in passing. Ultimately think luxury: silk scarves, exclusive memberships, must-have bookings.
The faceless colleague: When buying for someone who you don’t know or a large number of people, think of ideas with broad appeal. Gift vouchers will usually be well received and enable each person to make their own choice.
Your team: Make it a team gift and organise something that everyone can enjoy together – bowling, cinema or a meal out are all relatively cheap. To push the boat out, the sky’s the limit – a night away in a posh hotel or a money can’t- buy experience will hit the spot.
Corporate clients: In line with Thi’s words, don’t turn this into a branding exercise. Think about everyday items and invest in the best possible quality: cheap, tacky or emblazoned with logos send the wrong message. For tight budgets, maintain the quality and luxury feel but look for a smaller gift. Think about what would stand out, too – a book, inscribed with a personal note as to why you selected it for them? In a digital age, a physical book speaks volumes.